person filming something with cell phone

By now, virtually everyone has seen the video of Dr. David Dao being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight after he was one of four passengers randomly chosen to give up their seats on the overbooked flight so that several flight attendants could be transported back to Louisville, KY.

More than enough people have already debated whether Dr. Dao was right in refusing to leave the plane or if it was proper for the airline to have security remove him. That is not what I’m here to discuss

As unfortunate as the incident was, what struck me most was that none of the other passengers seemed to realize they had the power to prevent it—even as tensions escalated to such a high pitch.

All someone had to do was stand up and offer his or her seat instead, so Dr. Dao could stay on the plane. Even if the person disagreed with the airline’s decision to remove anyone, that simple act would have immediately de-escalated the situation.

Cell Phone Culture Leaves Us Disempowered and Deactivated

It’s sad, but not surprising, that instead of doing so, hundreds of people remained seated and watched the unfortunate scene unfold.

Worse yet, many of them took out their phones to film the altercation instead of empowering themselves to remedy it. I suppose that’s the voyeuristic and narcissistic influence of our cell phone culture: we would rather document what’s happening than be a part of it.

We’ve come to prioritize the feeling of temporary importance we get when we share sensationalistic videos, like the ones taken of Dr. Dao. In other words, we value telling strangers online “Hey, look what I saw,” more than telling friends, “Let me tell you what I did.”

As a society, we’ve missed out on what it means to cultivate human beings who grow up to be agents of peace in the world.

Cell phone culture is leaving us disempowered and deactivated, outside observers to our own lives instead of being active participants in them.

It’s a titillating, but largely passive, way of living.

As a society, we’ve missed out on what it means to cultivate human beings who grow up to be agents of peace in the world.

Every day we’re presented with opportunities to step forward and introduce a deeper level of loving into a situation instead of creating more conflict. This was the opportunity that was lost on that plane.

So now, the conversation that should really be happening is this:

Under what circumstances would each of us would be willing to suffer a little bit, or even simply be mildly inconvenienced, to help another person and thereby put more love into the world?

The First Noble Truth tells us that experiencing suffering is part of life. So why not take a little more upon ourselves to ease the load of someone else?

Sometimes it’s easy, such as when we allow someone to move ahead of us in the grocery store checkout line, or let another car take the parking space we wanted. Where do you draw the line on your generosity and for what reasons? What would you be willing to sacrifice for a family member, friend or perfect stranger?

Making Sacrifices With No Expectations

All religions speak of the importance of having love in one’s life, but love isn’t just something we experience in relationships; it’s what we are. It should be infused into everything we do because love is a way of being.

When we extend our love to others we’re actually extending part of ourselves to them, and it’s this type of human connection that we seem to have forgotten how to cultivate. A sacrifice is an act of love.

The ancient poet, Hafez, is one of my favorites but in my youth I had trouble understanding the meaning of one of his shortest but most powerful works.

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.”

I finally grasped the meaning after studying cosmobiology a decade ago. The sun burns 40 million tons of itself every second as it gives its light to us. Every form of life on earth, from tiny plankton in the sea to the largest plants and animals on land, must have sunlight to survive.

Yet, the sun gives of itself so generously, expecting nothing in return. If the sun can make such an enormous self-sacrifice so that we can live, what might we be able to give of ourselves so that someone else could live more easily, even for the moment?

Choosing Love

As a holistic physician, I tell all my patients that regardless of where they are in life, they always have the choice to step into their loving to be an agent of change, of peace.

This is the essence of why I founded the nonprofit organization the Love Button Global Movement: to inspire people to create moments where they can share their love and generosity with others instead of waiting for them to happen.

Considering what occurred with Dr. Dao, it’s quite timely that we’ve recently launched the Love Button Global Movement Dandelion Initiative.

The way it works is volunteers visit major ports of travel in their cities, greeting departing travelers and presenting them with a Love Button and a note, asking them to share love with someone along their journey or at their destination.

In this way, every Love Button we send out on a plane, bus, boat or train has the potential to generate love in the farthest corners of the earth. Like the white puff ball of a dandelion whose seeds, carried on the wind, take root in places far from the source, we’re sending our intention across land, sky and sea to take root in the hearts of people everywhere.

Even under the best of circumstances, travel can be stressful, but if we enter into it looking for opportunities to share love, it’s better for everyone.

Still, it’s hard to believe that no one on that United Airlines flight stepped forward to be an agent of love in that situation.

We’re working to change that. If just one of those passengers understood how powerful it makes a person to step into their loving, the situation wouldn’t have degraded so badly, Dr. Dao wouldn’t have been filmed from five different angles and humiliated on TV and online, and United Airlines wouldn’t be looking at a costly lawsuit. Maybe there is another way.

Life isn’t about assigning blame, but taking personal responsibility to make it better for ourselves and others in every moment. We have the power to do just that, and we do it with our love.

Changing the Conversation

Perhaps giving up one’s seat on an airplane to a stranger isn’t as cool as having an outrageous video the media is clamoring for and to share with friends. But it’s these kinds of actions that will cultivate a different dynamic—one that will help us create the kind of world we all want to live in.

Instead of filming everything that’s wrong in the world and complaining about it later, how about actively participating in those events to make the world better?

Quantum physics tells us that the observer eventually becomes one with what he’s observing.

If all we’re looking for is the negative or sensational in life because it titillates us, then we train our brains to recognize and expect only those things in the circumstances around us. It becomes habitual and eventually, like a locomotive, our brains only move in one direction, expecting and even creating that negativity.

So let’s consider changing the conversation around the Dr. Dao incident. Let’s stop focusing on whether the airline or the passenger made the right choice, and instead ask ourselves what choice we could commit to if we found ourselves in a similar situation.

Could we play a powerful and active role in our own lives in service of someone else—instead of being a passive observer? Can we train our minds to a new way of thinking, to recognize opportunities to step into our loving regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in or how someone else is treating us?

The mystic poet Rumi famously said, “Out beyond ideas of right doings and wrong doings, there is a field. We will meet you there.” Life isn’t about assigning blame, but taking personal responsibility to make it better for ourselves and others in every moment. We have the power to do just that, and we do it with our love.

How much love are you willing to give the next time the opportunity presents itself?

For more health and inspirational insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit to sign up for the monthly newsletter, check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN, or for messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram and Twitter @drhabibsadeghi.